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Allowing principals to focus on learning

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Editorial: May 3, 2012

ISSUE: Half-time assistant principals
OUR VIEW: It makes sense

Principals at Woodland and Vine Grove elementary schools will be retaining or regaining assistant principal positions at their schools under a policy change approved recently by the Hardin County Schools board.

The change lowers the enrollment threshold that allows for employment of additional administrative staff. Now, schools with 400 or more students are authorized to employ a half-time assistant principal and a full-time student counselor. Prior to this change, at least 500 students were required before these administrative positions could be hired.

Because of reductions in student enrollment related to shifting special education programs, Vine Grove already had lost its assistant principal complement and Woodland was to lose its next school year.

Whether on the local or national front, few conversations take place on education that do not center on how to improve teacher performance, deliver measurable student gains and both on tight if not declining budgets. When dollars are precious and few, investing them carefully in the area that makes the most positive impact on students becomes ever more critical. It’s reasonable to wonder how improvements in student performance can be achieved by spending precious money outside the classroom.

When commenting on the importance of the policy change, HCS Superintendent Nanette Johnston summed up the issue by pointing to the impact of having a principal spend time in the classroom with teachers and their students. Where there is a void of ample administrative staff, a principal’s time is consumed with the necessities of managerial tasks and functions at the expense of investing time and talent in assessing the rigor and results of what takes place in the classroom.

The school principal is the equivalent of a top leader within any corporate organization. He or she ultimately is accountable to district administrators, teachers, taxpayers, parents and students themselves for delivering results. They are responsible for setting, communicating and coaching their team toward the accomplishment of a clear set of goals and objectives. And they embody and model the best of what should be taking place in the classroom.

But to be effective in these important roles of their job responsibilities, the principal must have time to do so.

Equally important, the district must have a clear and objective way to gauge and measure the principal’s new-found time made available through additional support. If one thing is certain, there will be no loss in the number of problems that will pull these principal’s attention to other matters at hand.

Success must be measured in terms of additional educational leadership, teaching skill development and increased student success made possible through this policy change.

This editorial reflects a consensus of The News-Enterprise’s editorial board.